I'm a history buff, so this engaging mystery was right up that proverbial alley for me. I knew very little about the Golden Gate International Exposition and it was grand "exploring" the fair with Ray Sherwood as well as trying to unravel the mystery of the falling body and the complications that snare him deeper into ever-increasing conundrum, especially as his past is revealed. I literally began this book and did not put it down unless I had to; I even ate my dinner with eyes glued more to the page than to my portions. The period feel was excellent. Do listen to the CD--clues abound in the memorable songs.
He'd probably be fairly similar to Rupert Holmes' point of view character, Ray Sherwood.
Sherwood, an arranger and second chair sax player, keeps moving. In many ways, he's too good for the band he's playing in, but he's got to keep some road between him and his past.
It's 1940, San Franciso. He's playing with the Phil Donovan Orchestra at San Francisco's Claremont Hotel.
His first day there, he's set out to meet an Attractive Young Woman (by the desk clerk's standards) who left him a note offering him a proposition. The proposition he gets is from a French Jewish dancer with the Follies Bergere, who wishes to wed an American before she is shipped away....
Only a few minutes later, she ends up dead at his feet--an apparent suicide from the top of the Tower of the Sun, which is part of San Francisco's Exposition Center.
From there, the plot sweeps along. Holmes' writing, like his early lyrics, is witty and engaging. He keeps you guessing til the end.
The photographs of San Francisco in the 1940's as well as the CD soundtrack are wonderful multimedia additions to the whole "Swing" experience. Great job and very much well-written mystery.
on July 11, 2005
Hidden within the pages and music of Rupert Holmes' brilliant second novel are the keys that unlock the many mysteries swirling around 1940's swing band musician Ray Sherwood. Down-on-his-luck and determined to stay that way, Ray reluctantly looks up from the fog of his past and into the bright and beautiful eyes of Cal Berkeley co-ed Gail Prentice - and promptly finds himself surrounded by dead bodies, mysterious musical charts, and international intrigue.
Nothing is at it seems. From the newly engineered Treasure Island rising up out of the San Francisco bay like an Abyssinian city or later day Atlantis, to disappearing women and clever Nazi sympathizers, Ray struggles to separate reality from fiction and friend from foe and in the process save Gail and circumvent an impending national catastrophe.
Holmes carefully builds the momentum of the story until we find ourselves barely able to breathe, sitting on the edges of our seats, hoping against hope that our hero will save the day. His lovingly created characters imbue the story with charm and wit, pathos and heart and I, for one, fell in love with Ray...and you will too.
As you find yourself turning page after page of a "hist'ry far greater than fiction, a myst'ry with musical diction" you'll find that the music and this book will definitely speak to you.
on April 24, 2005
"Swing" by Rupert Holmes is an absolute treat. It keeps you guessing from start to finish.
Mr. Holmes has won a pair of Edgars, a Grammy, three Tony Awards and his previous novel ("Where the Truth Lies") is being made into a film starring Kevin Bacon. Mr. Holmes is no Forest Gump.
"Swing" is not a formulaic mystery...though a death transpires early on. It is a brainy, atmospheric, literate, nimble novel.
Set in 1940 during the Golden Gate International Exposition on the manmade Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, the noirish fictional historic thriller is narrated by sax player and arranger Ray Sherwood. He is part of the Jack Donovan Orchestra of Note...playing an extended gig at the upscale Claremont Hotel in Oakland.
Upon arrival, Berkeley student Gail Prentice entices Ray into helping her score her prize winning piano piece for full orchestra. Part of the prize is a performance by Japan's Pan Pacific Orchestra.
Ray agrees and enters into a world of betrayal, deceit, double crosses, murder and political intrigue.
Nazi sympathizers, a former lover from twenty years past, Sally Rand's Nude Ranch, Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon, the Lindy Hop, Japanese diplomats, lime phosphates are just a few of the people, places and lingo that transport the reader solidly into the big band era and lifestyle. An era when what musicians loved to play was what the public loved to hear.
The book comes with a CD of original big band music composed by Mr. Holmes. Clues are contained in the music...I, myself, was far too obtuse to locate said clues. However the CD has dominated my player for the past 300 miles.
No matter...the story is about something more ominous and disturbing than a murder, but to tell more would diminish the pleasure of the denouement.
"Swing" is right on key and not to be missed.
on March 15, 2005
Swing, a Mystery, is both a fun mystery and a wonderful look at San Francisco in 1940 through the eyes of Ray Sherwood, a saxaphone player in a swing band. The wonderful descriptions of the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island make you feel like you are there along with the characters and are a part of solving the mystery. Swing is intrigue, mystery and a lot of fun. The CD that comes with the book contains some of Rupert Holmes' great swing music including songs performed by the characters in the book, so not only can you read about the songs, you can hear them as well. What a treat. I was totally absorbed in this book and literally stayed up all night to finish it in one sitting, something I never do!!! As with all Rupert Holmes' mysteries, there are plot twists that keep you guessing but all come together in the end for a very satisfying read. While I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Holmes' first novel, Where the Truth Lies, Swing is even better!! I highly recommend it.
on March 23, 2005
In 1940 Ray Sherwood is touring as a sax player with the Jack Donovan Orchestra, a big band group working the West Coast presently performing in Berkley. Composer Gail Prentice, a college student at Berkeley, invites Ray, a talented arranger, to discuss his orchestrating her work, Swing Around the Sun, which is to premier shortly at the Golden gate World Fare.
As they talk on Treasure Island, Sherwood watches a Frenchwoman jump from the Tower of the Sun exposition to her death. Stunned by what he witnessed, Sherwood is shocked by the attraction he feels to the Berkeley coed although he knows his ex-wife works nearby serving as a cold reminder of happier times. Though he feels something is not right with Gail or with the suicide, Ray blindly continues the path he is on . He remaining unaware of the major link that turns recent incidents into one great composition; The Big Event, coming next year will explain all, but may be too late for him as he could be the next suicide victim
SWING is a more a historical musical tale than a pre World War II suspense thriller; the sinister mystery elements feel more like a coda to the deep look at 1940 America. The story line is a terrific look at San Francisco just prior to the war, but also insight into the music of the era; in fact part of the charm, some might say gimmick, is that award winning composer Rupert Homes has includes a CD that provides period piece music that enhances the tale. A different unique type of thriller, fans of the Big Band era will swing with Mr. Holmes' fine composition.
on March 28, 2005
Years ago, my stepfather told me, "Don't read the book, read the man." As time has gone on, I've come to appreciate his advice more and more. Specifically, in the case of Swing, the book follows an arc that began with Holmes' very first record album, Widescreen, from three decades ago. As any Remember WENN fan knows (Holmes wrote the critically-acclaimed AMC series), the Thirties and Forties have long held a special fascination for the author, and his attention to detail here is nothing short of breathtaking. You will absolutely be transported.
Not only does Holmes have the musician's argot down (big surprise, as he's recorded nine solo albums and is a Tony award winner for his music to The Mystery Of Edwin Drood), but his plotting ratchets up the tension and action to a breakneck thrill ride toward the book's conclusion. And if that weren't enough, he throws in a CD (replete with musical clues) to serve as background!
Both in the case of Swing and his earlier Where The Truth Lies (coming soon to a screen near you, directed by Atom Egoyan and starring Kevin Bacon), Holmes displays a shrewd sense of place and time. The dialogue crackles, the characters are drawn in all three dimensions, and the pacing escalates like the last three hundred yards of the Niagara. Both are cut from the same can't-put-it-down cloth of Robert B. Parker and Richard S. Prather when they're on their respective games.
Holmes has always been a master storyteller, from his first pop songs (anthologized on the forthcoming Cast of Characters: The Rupert Holmes Songbook 5-cd set on the Hip-O Select label) through his much-lauded stage and television productions, and now, in novel form. No matter where you dip into Rupert's extensive body of work, you will be opulently rewarded, and as you continue to "read the man," you'll marvel at his depth and breadth.
As Holmes once said in an interview, he's probably the only Edgar award winner to have appeared on American Bandstand.
Two nights ago, I was staring at my bookshelf, looking at all of the books I've been totally interested in, bought, and then left to gather dust. Among them was Rupert Holmes' "Swing." I have no explanation for why I didn't read it right away -- I'm a real fan of Rupert's work, and I loved his first novel, "Where the Truth Lies." But for whatever reason, it sat on the shelf until Tuesday night.
Well, if I had read it right when I bought it, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of devouring it this week. So it all works out. "Swing" is an excellent novel, much different in tone from the incredibly sexy "Truth." This one is set in 1940, about a year and a half before the U.S. entered World War II.
"Swing" starts out as a witty, bittersweet story of a jazz musician who misses his daughter, and the young (female) composer who charms the socks off him. But anyone familiar with Rupert's writing will know he's a twisty guy, and soon "Swing" is throwing you more curves than Lombard Street.
The characters feel very real, especially the narrator, Ray Sherwood. Having met Rupert (just once, more's the pity), I can say that Ray has some of Rupert's own charm. The character's pain and his humor ring very true.
The CD that accompanies the book adds some color, though you could totally enjoy the book (and get the entire story) without ever listening to the CD. However, it's worth playing the CD to enjoy Rupert's original take on big band music (and to hear the very unusual piece around which the plot revolves, "Swing Around the Sun").
Overall, this novel is definitely worth reading. And *this* movie won't have to be rated NC-17! (Stupid ratings board!!!)
on April 4, 2005
From the first page, "Swing" charmed me with the wit that made "Remember WENN" and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (two of Rupert Holmes's award winning triumphs) so remarkable. My enjoyable read continued at a leisurely pace when, all of a sudden, about two-thirds into the novel, "Swing" swung into its heart-stopping, page-turning crescendo and - finally - its denouement.
In short, "Swing" is a breathtaking read. Am I surprised? Hardly. Everything Rupert Holmes creates takes my breath away.
Chava Willig Levy
on April 17, 2005
"Describing music with words," Rupert Holmes writes, "is somewhat the equivalent of making a painting of a novel." How marvellous, then, that in his effervescent new novel Holmes makes his eloquent prose sing arias and his sublime melodies speak volumes (the latter on a CD of original music which accompanies the novel).
SWING centers on the derring-do of a daring saxophonist in 1940s Oakland. Ray Sherwood, jazz musician and man of the world, finds himself lifted from a decade-long depression after he agrees to orchestrate the prize-winning composition of a fetching young music student named Gail Prentice. The suspicious death that comes hard on the heels of this job offer is of course a mere coincidence...
The musical elements of the plot will delight even the most knowledgeable and demanding readers. Holmes brings the world of reed trimmers and valve oil to life as only an inhabitant of that world could. Far from being a mere appendage, the CD links inextricably to the plot; the more one knows about music, the more impressive Holmes's achievement becomes. (I hasten to add that while musical training might help the reader to understand SWING, it is hardly a prerequisite.)
The non-musical elements of the tale embrace all things noir. Ray and Gail evoke Bogart and Bacall in their early years; the complex plot swirling around them harkens back to THE BIG SLEEP. And though much of the tale centers on the music Ray and Gail create together, dead bodies and espionage operations are strewn liberally among the notes and clefs.
As with Holmes's previous novel, WHERE THE TRUTH LIES, stock story elements find themselves imbued with a sardonic twist. Both books feature narrators who craft genre fiction from their own lives, consciously behaving like film characters even as they occasionally disparage others for doing the same.
And in the end, Mr. Holmes allows us to do the same thing for a few blissful hours: place ourselves vicariously in danger alongside Ray and Gail, tasting illegal thrills through their music and lyrics.